From February 1981 to September 1982, 34 patients with metastatic or locally advanced (inoperable) epidermoid carcinoma of the oesophagus were treated with a combination of cisplatin, bleomycin and methotrexate. Thirty-one patients are now evaluable for response: 16 of 31 (52%) experienced some improvement, but only eight (26%) obtained major responses (one complete and seven partial). Responses were obtained rapidly within the first two courses. The median duration of responses was 5 months. The median survival from start of therapy was 8 months for responsive and 5 months for non-responsive patients. Gastrointestinal toxicity (cisplatin-related) and mild myelosuppression were the most prominent side-effects. This combination chemotherapy proved to be only of small efficacy in the long-term control of advanced oesophageal cancer. However, because the responses were obtained rapidly, it is conceivable that a similar regimen (with increased dosage of cisplatin) applied before surgery to patients with limited disease could obtain a reduction of the bulky tumour, with a possible increase of the resectability rate and destruction of micrometastases.
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